The first six Dassault Rafale multirole fighters for the Elliniki Polemiki Aeroporia (Hellenic Air Force, HAF) were ferried by Greek crews from Istres in southern France to Greece on January 19. They were greeted on arrival at Tanagra air base by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was accompanied by the Minister of National Defense, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, and Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
Dassault handed over the first aircraft to Greece on July 21 last year, but they were retained in France at the Bordeaux-Mérignac Conversion Training Centre, where Dassault has been training HAF air and ground crew. At Tanagra, they are assigned to 332 Mira “Geraki” (Hawk squadron) to begin the conversion from the first-generation Dassault Mirage 2000BG/EG. The squadron operates alongside 331 Mira, which flies the second-generation Mirage 2000-5BG/EG, in both new-build and upgraded form.
The delivery of these first Rafales occurred just short of a year after the contract was signed on Jan. 25, 2021. Greece had announced it would be buying the French fighter a few months before that, in September 2020. The speedy delivery has been made possible by drawing the first 12 aircraft from existing French air force stocks, with France ordering an additional dozen to make good its own inventory. The second batch of six ex-French jets is scheduled for transfer to Greece before the end of the year, at which time the Mirages will retire, and the final six new-build aircraft from the 18-aircraft order are scheduled for delivery before the end of 2023.
"The mastery with which the Hellenic Air Force carried out this first ferry flight is a testimony to the excellence of our cooperation and the strength of our historical relationship with Greece for more than 45 years,” said Trappier. “Thanks to our mobilization, we were able to meet the expectations of the Greek authorities in record time...[They] now have the Rafale on national territory to reinforce the protection and sovereignty of the country.”
In September 2021, Mitsotakis announced that Greece would add six further Rafales, bringing the total to 24. It is expected that they will be new-build aircraft, although that has not been confirmed.